If you’ve ever wondered why the cuisine in hot climates is often distinguished by a high degree of spiciness, the answer may come in the guise of a nifty little trick known in some circles as diet-induced thermogenesis. Also known as: the generation of body heat that occurs from eating. Through normal digestion, absorption, and metabolization of food, the body converts food calories to heat. Burning calories can literally warm you up.
In hot weather, the increase in body temperature makes you feel cooler by decreasing the temperature difference between you and the air around you, as well as by inducing the body to sweat, which cools the body when the perspiration evaporates. In cold weather, though, the increase in body temperature can make you feel plain old warm and cozy.
Other foods have similar thermogenic effects, resulting in increased feelings of warmth. Here are five foods that have been found to turn up the body heat.
Capsaicin, the substance that gives hot peppers their pungent flavor (and also used in pepper sprays and for pain relief) increases thermogenesis. Essentially, hot, spicy foods are stimulants which raise the body temperature by stimulating the circulation.
Black pepper is harvested from unripe berries of the vine Piper nigrum (white pepper is extracted from the ripe berries, you can impress your foodie friends at dinner parties with that one). Black pepper contains piperine, a substance that has been shown to influence thermogenesis through stimulating the nervous system.
Widely used as a herbal remedy for a number of conditions–including those involving the digestive tract, headaches and nausea–the pungent principles of ginger (gingerols and shogaols) also have thermogenic properties.
Green tea has two components, caffeine and catechins, that have been shown to produce thermogensis. Green tea containing caffeine significantly increased thermogenesis by 28 percent to 77 percent. In Asia, green tea is a common recipe ingredient, which is a great way to incorporate this nutritional powerhouse into your diet.
Coconut oil is comprised of mostly medium-chain fatty acids, which, when eaten, have been shown to increase thermogenesis. On the down side, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat.